So now WordPress.com bloggers have two different top bars. The old one you see when you first go to your blog or another WordPress.com blog and a new one when you go to almost any administration task.
How do I like the new top bar? To say that I don’t like it at all would be an understatement. It adds the ability to quickly get to the blog reader and Freshly Pressed and takes away the ability to quickly get to the two most important parts of the Dashboard, managing comments and the best New Post editor.
The simplified New Post editor, the only one accessible from the new top bar, lacks three extremely important features, the ability to set a category for your blog post, the ability to edit the ‘Publicize’ slug and where it will be publicised (I like to be able to turn off LinkedIn for my more personal posts) and finally it doesn’t support ‘Text’ mode which I use constantly since I type most of my posts into a text editor using MarkDown for format (which isn’t supported by WordPress.com) and then use “Export to clipboard in HTML” and paste the result into Text mode.
I realise the final complaint there might not cover everyone but I suspect I am not the only WordPress.com blogger who pastes entire posts into Text view as HTML. Less important, but still missing is access to the Zemanta recommendation engine. With the new top bar there is no quick way to get to the full editor.
There is also a small bug, though perhaps it’s a ‘feature’, in the new top bar. Wait until you get a notification and the little speech bubble at the right changes to one of the indicators. Now click on it so you get the notifications list/menu. Notice how the indicator doesn’t change back to the speech bubble. Now navigate off the page you are looking at to another, perhaps reload the page. The notification icon is still there. It will only go if you select an item in the list, even though for a “like” or a “follow” just opening the list gives you just as much information as selecting the item. This is different to the way it works in the old bar.
While I am criticising changes on WordPress.com let me add a couple of other small changes I see as backwards.
The first is the change to the Freshly Pressed page. Previously, as a grid of small pictures, a title and a category, it was easy to visit every couple of days and quickly have a look to see if anything might pique your interest. I certainly kept an eye on it. Now it is nothing more than another blog and takes more time to scroll through and find your personal gems. The earlier version may well have been short on information to make a decision to read or not to read but the new format is a serious step back.
The second is hard to understand. Previously in the Reader the menu was on the left of the page. In the Dashboard it is on the left, in Settings it is on the left and most usability people tell you that the left is the best spot for it. For some reason it has now switched to the right of the page.
I ask my fellow WordPress.com bloggers how they feel about these changes. Do you like the new top bar? What about the other changes? Do you think WordPress.com might need a good channel to provide feedback for this sort of change?